In the spring of 1906 San Francisco was a city boasting 410,000 inhabitants — a world-class metropolis whose citizens, at the dawn of a new century, looked forward with a sense of civic pride and growing confidence. San Francisco’s very existence was the triumph of imagination over reality. In 1846 the site was largely barren sand dunes fringed with wind-stunted oaks and populated mainly by billions of fleas that tormented man and beast alike.
In 1846 the scraggly little village of Yerba Buena, named after a local shrub, was clustered near the lip of Yerba Buena Cove in San Francisco Bay. It would be transformed by the discovery of gold in 1848. The Gold Rush helped Yerba Buena, now called San Francisco, vault from sleepy hamlet to ‘instant city.’